Now that Chanukah is over, my wife and I want to vent. What is going on with this world? Why do kids need presents and parties all day? Chanukah is a special yom tov during which we celebrate miracles that happen. If I don’t buy my kids any presents, they will resent it. If I do, I’m giving in to the new-age mentality. Aren’t we supposed to stay away from presents? How can we stop this downward spiral?
I’ve received a few emails similar to yours over the past few weeks, although most people didn’t wait until after Chanukah to email. I have a feeling that this will be one of the shortest responses I’ve ever written.
One of the hardest parts of growing up these days is that children don’t get to be children. We expect them to act like adults, and because they are so “in the know,” we forget that they are in fact still children. I once heard a mother tell her child in pre-1A, “You’re acting like a five-year-old!” When I pointed out that he was indeed only five, she responded, “But he’s much more mature than a typical five-year-old boy.”
If we don’t let children act like kids when they’re little, they’ll act immature when they’re older.
Let me tell you something that children love — yomim tovim. Look at it from their perspective. No school, they get to spend time with their parents (and, dare I say, siblings), and it’s fun. I asked a few boys what their favorite yomim tovim were, and I got Purim, Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, and Chanukah.
Each one has a spiritual part that the kids love, and a material part, too. Purim? Kids love dressing up and going to hear megillah. They also love hamentaschen and getting mishloach manos. Chanukah? Kids love lighting the menorah. They also love making latkes, playing dreidel, and, yes, getting presents. Now I’m not advocating giving kids eight days of handouts, but what’s wrong with thoughtful gifts? Let them enjoy a new toy, book, or MP3 player.
I wouldn’t make the focus of Chanukah the presents, but if that’s what excites your kids, so be it. My younger kids were so excited for their presents that they asked to look at them before Chanukah. They just wanted to see them. My older kids, who were the same way years ago, didn’t even ask for presents. As they matured, they became more excited for Chanukah itself and forgot about the presents.
In regard to your comment that we’re supposed to stay away from presents, I don’t think you’re correct in this situation. When you buy your wife flowers for Shabbos, does she refuse them? How about jewelry? If your wife bought you a new watch, would you tell her to send it back? Don’t tell me it’s different, because to a child a new toy is just as appealing as a necklace is to one’s wife.
The one thing I would insist upon is that if they got a present from a grandparent, they need to write a thank-you letter. If the present is from you, they should thank both parents before they open it.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.